10 ways smart technology is reshaping the hotel industry

Why smart energy systems ensure guest satisfaction
Smart hotel technology offers a variety of cost savings and revenue opportunities, and it is enabling hotel owners to reach new levels of profitability. Photo credit: Verdant Environmental Technologies

Smart technology is changing everything from the homes we live in to how our cities are managed. The hospitality industry is no exception. In many ways, the hospitality industry is leading the charge in the adoption of smart business technology. 

From operations to guest experience to marketing, smart hotel technology offers a variety of cost savings and revenue opportunities, and it is enabling hotel owners to reach new levels of profitability. Here are 10 ways in which smart technology will be reshaping the hotel industry in the very near future.

1. Smart Energy Management

Smart thermostats and occupancy sensors can monitor and respond to fluctuations in occupancy. Likewise, smart energy-management systems use sophisticated machine-learning algorithms to continuously analyze historical thermodynamics, local weather patterns and peak demand loads to optimize energy consumption in real-time, all year round. Smart energy savings aren’t just wild speculation. Smart energy-management systems can reduce hotel energy costs by up to 20 percent and generate some of the fastest payback periods in the industry (between 12-24 months). They can also significantly increase the resale value of a hotel.

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The energy savings from Internet of Things technology is not limited only to heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems. Smart lighting technology also enables hoteliers to better understand their energy needs, automate consumption and adapt to real-time changes in occupancy. Just as smart HVAC systems use occupancy sensors and machine-learning algorithms to continuously analyze demand load patterns and optimize HVAC energy consumption, smart lighting systems similarly allow hotels to set preferred lighting times, track occupancy patterns and improve overall lighting energy consumption throughout the year.

For instance, when the Chatwal Hotel in New York retrofitted approximately 1,300 lamps in the hallways, common areas, and 80 rooms, it saved more than 410,000 annual kilowatt-hours, equating to a 90 percent reduction in lighting energy consumption. Indeed, the Chatwal Hotel saved around $124,255 in the first year alone.

2. Predictive Maintenance

Just as smart EMSs enable hoteliers to monitor, track and optimize energy consumption, predictive maintenance allows them to use sensor data to identify wasteful or hazardous trends and alert maintenance staff before a given issue escalates into a much costlier one. So rather than waiting for a component to break down before being serviced or replaced, IoT technologies are enabling engineering staff to predict maintenance needs based on system usage, prevent system failures and reduce the costs of operating a faulty system.

A single leaky toilet can cost as much as $840 per year. Add to that the cost of water damage that occurs until the leak is detected. By monitoring water lines with smart, low-cost IoT-enabled water meters, hotels can see a return on their water consumption in about four years.

Similarly, some online management platforms continuously collect data related to HVAC runtimes for each unique room and assigns them efficiency ratings. This rating is an indicator of how quickly a room can be heated or cooled back down to the guest’s preferred temperature and provides engineering teams with critical alerts when HVAC equipment needs attention.

3. Smart Guest Experiences

No hotel can operate without guests, and for that reason, hoteliers can expect to see smart technology further shape guest experiences and expectations. Not only can guest data be used to help better accommodate guest needs, but in conjunction with occupancy sensors, it can also be used to automate guest interactions throughout their stay, reducing both friction points and labor costs. In this way, smart technology will continue to make it possible for hotels to predict and personalize several guest services based on previous visits and aggregated guest data.

4. Big Data and Big Data Protection

One of the main benefits of smart technology is how it aggregates data and makes it actionable. But with big data comes big responsibility. According to Cloudbeds, “Big data is great when you can use it to take action—whether that’s tackling a new market segment or adjusting your rate plans to compete against your competitors. However, the biggest concern around big data and the necessary data harboring is the safety around it. Every data harborer’s goal is to keep their customers’ data safe, but that’s easier said than done. In recent years, we’ve seen massive data breaches that have literally put hundreds of millions of consumers at risk—like Equifax and Target.”

As the price point of big-data solutions makes them more accessible to medium-sized segments of the hotel market, we can expect to see more hotel owners adopt and invest in them. More importantly, we can expect solution providers who can guarantee data protect to dominate their market segments.

5. Smart Reserved Parking

Hotels now can use smart sensors and hotel apps to allow guests to reserve parking spots in advance of their visit and to have their space assigned upon arrival. This will save hotels the labor cost of manually managing parking inventory and it will give guests a smoother experience from the moment they pull in.

6. Remote Check-In/Check-Out

By enabling guests to check in remotely through their mobile device, hotel owners can better predict/manage their staffing needs and save considerably on labor costs. This technology can also alert hotel staff when guests arrive (enabling them to spend less time on the welcoming process), offer appropriate upgrades/upsells, and provide them with a more personalized guest experience, even on their first visit.

At the end of the guest stay, travelers can enjoy a seamless self-check-out experience that also allows them to arrange for their preferred transportation to their next destination (whether it be taxi, airport shuttle or a ride-sharing service such as Uber or Lyft), further saving on labor costs.

7. Mobile Room Keys 

Today more and more hotels are offering guests room access via their smartphone app. This is saving costs from printing environmentally harmful plastic keycards and its eliminating the hassle of managing keycard inventory that is prone to loss and demagnetization.

8. Smart Roomservice

Smart occupancy sensors will also help hotels push menu notifications to smartphones at optimal times when the guests are in their rooms. These notifications can even include personalized suggestions based on past orders. Indeed, many home food-delivery apps already offer a similar experience, sending push notifications to frequent users at their preferred ordering times on their preferred days.

9. Smart Marketing Practices

Before hotels can deliver on a smart guest experience, they must bring guests through the door; that’s where smart marketing comes in. Data opportunities of smart technology offer hotels a more complete picture of their guests than ever before. Hotels that leverage data insight are the ones that will continue to succeed in the face of increased competition from Airbnb.

10. Online Reputation Management Technology

A hotel’s online ratings can not only help predict future bookings, but they offer owners valuable insight into how well a property delivered on guest expectations. Therefore, operators will continue to invest in platforms that help them monitor online reviews, manage their online reputation and use that feedback to improve both their operational and guest experience standards. Indeed, online reviews not only provide a source of direct feedback from guests, but they also impact a property’s bottom line.
 
These 10 trends are just the beginning. Other smart technologies such as customer surveys, smart loyalty-program management and smart hotel management will play a bigger role in how hotels operate in 2020 and beyond. The key to smarter hotel operations is implementing the right technologies that meet guests’ expectations and hoteliers’ needs to get to know these travelers better. 

As we move toward 2020, we can expect to see more hotel properties leveraging a variety of smart tech to reduce operational costs, improve guest experience and exploit new sources of revenue. The opportunity is in the data. The successful properties will be the ones that invest in collecting and analyzing it in an actionable fashion.

John Attala is the marketing director for Verdant Environmental Technologies, a provider of energy-management solutions for the hospitality industry.

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